Meade LX400ACF 12 14 and 16Inch

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For Meade fanciers, this is almost the end of the rainbow. Like the 10-inch LX400, the 12-, 14-, and 16-inch models boast features that make them some of the most advanced CATs on the planet. Not many custom observatory scopes are as loaded with advanced computer frippery as the LX400 SCTs. What the larger LX400s bring to the party is serious aperture in addition to the computer gee-whizzery. But, they are heavy. For someone living in a city and unable to build a permanent observatory, portability is a must, and that is something the big LX400-ACFs definitely do not offer.

In the discussion of the 10-inch scope, we mentioned it looked like a "normal" 12-inch. The real 12-inch is even bigger, the 14-inch is enormous, and the 16-inch—well, you get the idea. The 12-inch requires a lift of 96 pounds onto the tripod. The 14 comes in at 121 pounds. As for the 16-inch, try 250 back-breaking pounds. Making that even worse is the fact that many LX400 users are focused on imaging. To do serious picture taking, the CATs will have to be lifted and tilted to be placed on a wedge.

Might the large LX400s be the ultimate CATs for a permanent installation? Perhaps they will. As was the case with the 10-inch, this is a mighty impressive instrument, with all the features SCT users have for years been clamoring for: zero image shift focusing, motorized collimation, a built-in dew remover for the corrector plate, USB connectivity, and more. The optics are the same amazing f/8 aplantic SCT optics used on the 10-inch. Accessories, while not lavish considering the prices ($7,000, $9,600 and $17,000 for the 12-, 14-, and 16-inch, respectively) do include one of Meade's top Series 5000 Ultrawide eyepieces, a 2-inch UHTC-coated diagonal, and the Autostar Suite CD. The 10, 12, and 14-inch, like the 10-inch, are mounted on Meade's new heavy-duty tripod. The 16-inch, as is the LX200, is available with either the enormous Super Giant Field Tripod or a permanent pier.

What is the final verdict on the big LX400s? The 12 and 14, especially, have had their growing pains, maybe even more so than the 10-inch. The difficulties seem, as with the 10-inch, to center around focus/collimation motors and electronics at this time. As mentioned, Meade appears to have suspended production of these scopes-at least for now.

How about the 16-inch? Certainly, the pictures of this humongous CAT are impressive, although they seem to indicate Meade has mostly just scaled up the basic RCX design. Admittedly, it is hard to tell much from pictures, and there are not many around to look at. Unfortunately we may never see one, since, as with the smaller LX400s, Meade has stopped production on the 16-inch fork mount scope. Nobody seems to care much, though, since amateurs in the market for something in this class are now focused on what is undoubtedly the most impressive pair of SCTs ever produced by Meade—or Celestron—the Max Mount 16- and 20-inch LX400 SCTs.

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